DP World Tour Championship: Perez the Victor on opening day

Dubai - Frenchman cards five-under 67 to lead by a stroke

Frenchman Victor Perez tees off from the first during the DP World Tour Championship at the Earth Course of the Jumeirah Golf Estates on Thursday. — Getty Images
Frenchman Victor Perez tees off from the first during the DP World Tour Championship at the Earth Course of the Jumeirah Golf Estates on Thursday. — Getty Images

By James Jose

Published: Thu 10 Dec 2020, 10:40 PM

With the competition well and truly on for the Race to Dubai, all eyes, quite expectedly, were on the top three of Patrick Reed, Tommy Fleetwood and Collin Morikawa as the DP World Tour Championship got going in Dubai on Thursday.

But Frenchman Victor Perez stole the spotlight away from the Americans and the Englishman and put it on himself. On a day when the scoring wasn’t that low, not as low as last week when Andy Sullivan shot an opening day 11-under par on the Fire Course at the Jumeirah Golf Estates, Perez had a decent outing on the Earth course to perch himself atop the leaderboard.

Perez, who stands tall at six-foot-five, stood above the rest of the field with a five-under 67. The 28-year-old not just put himself in contention for the season-ender but also in prime position to become the European Tour’s No.1.

Perez, who beat Englishman Matthew Southgate by a stroke to win the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last year, his maiden victory on the European Tour, is sixth on the Race to Dubai.

And a win on Sunday will give Perez, who finished tied second in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and tied 16th in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic earlier this season, the prestigious crown.

And while he has not put a foot wrong in the opening round, it still is a long road with a number of contenders lurking in the shadows.

England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick, 16th on the Race to Dubai, as well as South African Erik van Rooyen, who is 14th, and Robert MacIintyre of Scotland, are tied second on four-under 68, a stroke behind Perez.

Behind that pack and two shots adrift of Perez is Fleetwood after the 2017 Race to Dubai champion carded a three-under 69. Joining Fleetwood is countryman Tyrrell Hatton and German Martin Kaymer along with Finland’s Sami Valimaki.

Reed, bidding to become the first American to win the Race to Dubai, shot a two-under 70 to be tied for ninth, while compatriot Morikawa came up with a par round to be tied 26th.

Teeing off from one along with South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Perez had six birdies and a bogey in his round.

The world No.37 birdied the par-5 second but endured a bogey on the 245-yard par-3 fourth. But that was to be the only blip as he went on to birdie the seventh. He began his return journey with back-to-back birdies on the 10th and 11th and closed his sojourn with birdies on the par-5 14th and the par-3 17th.

“It was just about holing a few good putts, driving the ball well, doing everything fairly well but obviously making a few putts, which you need those types of days,” said Perez, who finished second in the BMW PGA Championship.

Despite the difficult pin positions, Perez reckoned it was best to attack than play cautiously.

“In the position I'm in, I have nothing to lose. I have everything to gain. So, for me, it's really a going-for-it mentality that I have to keep for four rounds. Obviously, you still have to play proper golf and hit the right shots and sometimes take your medicine, but again, I have really nothing to lose, and it's a matter of making a lot of birdies,” added Perez, who is a massive fan of record 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer.

Perez will tee off with Scotsman MacIntyre at 12.45 p.m, while Fleetwood is paired with Hatton and will tee off at quarter past noon.

Reed, meanwhile, is joined by Joost Luiten of the Netherlands and they will tee off at 11.25 a.m.


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